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UNDER

Cindy Maddera

January first most people jump into a workout/diet routine in an attempt to start the New Year off right. I buy new underwear. Usually. This year I’ve been dragging my feet a little on this because I used to buy my underwear from Victoria Secret. I don’t really feel comfortable supporting that company any more, but here’s the thing. I know what sizes to buy at Victoria Secret. You would think those sizes are universal. Nope, they are not because that would make sense. So this left me staring at the wall of underwear in Target with no clue of what to get or what size was the right size. Then the Cabbage said “why don’t you take one of them out of the box and try them on over your pants.” And for some reason I thought “hey, that’s not a bad idea.” So I did and I was all “okay, these size sevens fit.” and I tossed a package of four into our cart. Then I walked over to the bra section where I squished and felt every bra looking for something soft with some padding, but not too much padding. Michael pulled out one and said “what about this one?” It had wide side panels that reminded me of an ace bandage, which I commented on. Then Michael said “It’s supposed to hold in your side flab.” Then I punched him in the face.

Not really.

I’m doing my best to believe that he doesn’t really think I need something to ‘hold in my side flab’ except it isn’t the first time he’s mentioned my side flab in that last two weeks.

The most discouraging and depressing part of this experience was the overwhelming selection of underwear advertised to hold in your rolls. Any and all of them. Back rolls, hip rolls, belly rolls. Women are not supposed to have any illusion of rolls. We have to smash ourselves into shape wear that promises to give us a universal slim shape so that we all have the body of the mannequin in the store front window. Women have been raised on the idea that their rolls are ugly and shameful. I felt like maybe instead of underwear shopping, I too should be jumping into a workout/diet routine. Then I got mad because the double standard is ridiculous. Where is the shape wear for men? Why isn’t there a wall of under garments in Target devoted to smashing the dad gut? Where’s the section for man bras? Why doesn’t society dictate that men have a ‘smooth silhouette’?

I wear a padded bra, not because I want to give off the illusion of having larger boobs, but solely so my nipples are not visibly poking through my shirt. I used to wear plain old t-shirt like bras that were soft and comfortable, but on one too many occasions ended up with my arms crossed over my chest after some guy pointedly stared at my chest while saying “Cindy must be cold.” When Michael wears padded underwear it’s for comfort while riding his bicycle, not because some woman might point at his crotch and say something about the weather. A friend of mine recently posted about how tired she was of wearing a bra everyday and she only wears one now because men would stare at her. Dear Men, in case you were under the impression that women wore bras for the sole purpose of support, you are wrong. We wear them so you won’t blatantly stare at our boobs. Except, bra or no bra you still do it because bras are no longer designed for just support. They’re designed to lift and enhance and give cleavage. They are designed to encourage men to stare at our boobs. It’s a Catch 22.

I’ve waisted years of my life wiggling into shape defining pantyhose. I wore oversized t-shirts and refused to tuck a shirt into anything in order to keep my belly covered. I also spent a many a meal, carefully pushing food to the side of my plate to make it look like I ate it. As if that one bite of mashed potatoes was going to keep me from acquiring that so called perfect silhouette. It has taken me so many years to learn to love my Buddha belly, to be proud of my hips, to not be ashamed of this body. For the longest time, I felt like I couldn’t even walk around my own house without a bra on because what if I had to answer the door? Fuck that. That’s all bullshit and this is my year to get rid of the bullshit. I have rolls. I have had rolls since the day I was finally big enough to come home from the hospital as a baby. I eat healthy. I do thirty to forty minutes of cardio five days a week. I get on my yoga mat for an hour or more five to six days a week. You want to talk about my side flab? Let’s talk about my side plank instead and how strong and beautiful it is when I hold that pose. Shape that.

I will say, though, that I am now the proud owner of four pairs of underwear that fit well above my belly button and are saggy in the butt because one probably should not take sizing advice from an eight year old.